For the first time in a long time the Canadian Football League is really up for grabs, meaning that the league is wide open and anyone can win. Granted the defending Grey Cup champs, the BC Lions have to be the favourites, but after them it is anyone’s game. This is doubly true in the Eastern Division. Each of the teams in the East have improved and with the almost complete overhaul on defense by perennial powerhouses the Montreal Alouettes the usual Montreal on the top of the division is certainly not a guarantee.
It is with that in mind that fans of the Als worried a little when they were completely dominated in their season opening game against the Calgary Stampeders, 38-10. Some relief came with a 41-30 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in week 2. Now on only their 3rd game of the season, Montreal and Calgary were playing each other for the second time. Obviously Montreal fans were hoping for a different result.
Calgary would be featuring a different starting quarterback as starter Drew Tate is out for 4-6 weeks with a shoulder injury. Veteran QB Kevin Glenn would be stepping in and bringing his wealth of experience to the table. A quarterback issue was also part of the Alouettes week. Anthony Calvillo was coming into the game with a question mark over his head as he hurt his left shoulder in the game last week. An MRI concluded that it was just bruised and he could not do any further structural damage just by playing. As a result of the injury Calvillo did not practice much this week which is never a good thing for a quarterback and his offense at the beginning of a season.
The game was underway after Calvillo’s niece Angelique sang the national anthem in both official languages (pretty impressive for a young lady from California!) and Montreal started on offense. It was 2 and out for the Als in a preview of things to come. Actually in the beginning of the game both offenses had troubles. The defensive units for both sides had the upper hand early on.
In a big change from the first contest between the two teams, the Montreal defense was able to largely shut down Calgary running back Rob Cornish. In the first half the Als defense was winning the one on one and physical battles. Thank God for that as the offense was totally out of sync.
At the 4:29 mark of the 1st quarter, after taking two straight penalties that had them backed up on their own 2 yard line and facing a 3rd and 12, coach Marc Trestman decided (wisely) to have punter Sean Whyte, who had just shanked his last punt, take a knee in the end zone and concede the 2 points. Calgary gained one more point almost 5 minutes later when punter Rob Maver’s kick went into the Als end zone.
On the first offensive play after Calgary going up 3-0 Calvillo was hit and fell onto the leg of Josh Bourke. Calvillo was shaken up then and several other times during the game. The offensive line had trouble all night keeping their QB upright. Calgary was able to sack Calvillo 4 times and pressured him consistently. Bourke took a knock on his ankle, but was able to continue.
Always the warrior and consummate leader, Calvillo brushed off the injury and led his team to the first touchdown of the game. It was a strange one. Wide receiver Brian Bratton made a diving catch and when none of the Stampeders touched him while he was on the ground a heads up Bratton got up and scampered into the end zone. Even after review the 68 yard catch, fall and run play was good and Montreal took the lead 7-3. This was the longest play for Montreal from scrimmage so far this season.
After a fumble by Calgary receiver Romby Bryant while being tackled by Wopamo Osaisai that was recovered by Shea Emry, who had a great game and seemed to be everywhere on the field, Whyte was good on a 39 yard field goal at the beginning of the 2nd quarter. Whyte made his fifth field goal in a row so far this season 3 minutes later making the score 13-3 Montreal.
Due to the inability of the Montreal offence to get anything really going for most of the game they had to deal with very poor field position on many an occasion. For the second time in the game due to this problem Sean Whyte conceded 2 points towards the end of the 1st half of play.
Another big problem for the Als was their indiscipline. They took way too many penalties. Penalties on offence and defense. Penalties that put them trouble or prolonged a Calgary march down the field.
Calgary was then in the 2nd half able to step up their game. They managed to score 22 points in a row. Things look bleak for Montreal with their offence sputtering and the defence exhausted from being on the field too much. Calvillo was having a rough day at the office. He seemed to be protecting his shoulder which was wreaking havoc on his throws. Can’t blame the guy for being a bit nervous with his offensive line being manhandled. The pressure was intense on him as the Als did not really have any running game to speak of.
The 2 points for Calgary came from the conceded 2 points, two Réné Paredes (a product of Concordia University) field goals of 46 and 18 yards and 2 touchdown runs from back up QB Bo Levi Mitchell of 1 yard each. Calgary had now taken the lead in the 4th quarter 25-13. A complete turnaround for the men in red.
Then in the 4th quarter Montreal and Calgary traded touchdowns. Als back up QB Adrian McPherson scored on a 1 yard run at 7:35 then Calgary’s Cornish got one of his own with a 6 yard run at 12:12. Now with less than 3 minutes left the score was 32-20 Stampeders. It seemed hopeless. Of the 21,000 fans there about 10,000 left thinking the game was over. Trestman said after the game that he never gave up hope and that showed how intelligent this man really is.
They say to be good you have to have some luck. Well, the Als benefited from some luck and a major mistake by a veteran who should have known better. With 2 minutes left Calvillo linked up with receiver Brandon London for another long gain of 36 yards that made it 1st and goal on the Calgary 7 yard line. On the next play Calvillo found SJ Green in the end zone. 32-27 Calgary with 1:47 left in the game.
Montreal kicked off. Trestman was putting his trust in the defence that had 24 points scored against it in the 2nd half. The man is no fool…or maybe he just had a gut feeling. On the 2nd play from scrimmage Glenn had a brain cramp and was intercepted by Jerald Brown. He returned the ball to the Calgary 1 yard line where he promptly fumbled it. Luckily it was recovered by Kyries Hebert. McPherson was brought in but all they managed to accomplish on the next two plays was to lose 2 yards. With the ball now on the 3 yard line Calvillo was brought back in. After looking around and scrambling for what seemed like an eternity the veteran QB finally found rookie fullback Patrick Lavoie just inside the end zone. Lavoie juggled the ball a bit, but managed to hang on to it. Montreal went for the 2 point conversion, but were unsuccessful when Calvillo overthrew Jamal Richardson.
When Calgary got the ball back there was 47.4 seconds left. After one short completion the offence inexcusably did not seem to know that they had no time outs left and the clock kept running. Calgary wasted at least 20 seconds getting to the line for their next play which was a short completion, but the last play of the game. Montreal eked out a 33-32 win.
It was a spectacular come back for Montreal with 2 touchdowns in the last 2 minutes and the interception by Brown. They were lucky, but you know what they say about luck…
The Als next game is July 21st in Hamilton versus the Tiger Cats.
-Final Score: Montreal: 33